My son Alex is on the back of the Xtracycle espousing Dr. Seuss’s words: “I AM the LORAX! I SPEAK FOR THE TREES!”
The boys were upset to see some trash by the side of the road, so we circled back and did some service taking care of our Earth. And then Alex began to recite the words.
The things that come up because of the bike! More teachable great parenting moments are opening up all the time, more intimacy as a family.
All because of this bike.
It is sleeting against the windows. Tomorrow is Bike to School day, and it is not looking promising for the good guys.
Perhaps I’ll doom my wee sons, ages six and nearly-four to a life of alpinism with this mountain town bike commuting. It’s COLD here at 6,150 feet above sea-level, at eight in the morning. It’s not uncommon for it to be below freezing heading into town, and sixty degrees in the afternoon of the same day is just as likely.
I bundle up the boys, fleece hoodies under down jackets. Just the ticket since the hoods fit neatly under their helmets and later the down jackets squish away into my town bag. Winter mittens and wool socks, also essential. And if I was a better mom, a thermos of hot cocoa wouldn’t go amiss. But I can barely get my own coffee before we head out the door. And enough calories for my effort!? Haven’t quite got that dialed yet to be sure…
I do feel excellent about what I’m modeling to and sharing with them. I am a fortunate woman. I came to own this fabulous machine by way of a dear friend that I’ve had for as long as the bike, Brad Werntz. (We worked together at Erehwon Mountain Outfitter, way back in the day…) On Facebook of all places, Brad offered to take my twenty-five year old mountain bike and give it new life. A sexy mom-mobile was promised, like the sort he’d built for his own wife Vera. This was to be my Diamond Back’s second incarnation – but its first life was also spectacular.
To me, this bike has always been a talisman of my freedom and intention. It was the first and last bike I ever put together all by myself. It was my only mode of transportation on campus while I was a student at UW Madison. And then when I threw down and bought a ticket west to the land of my dreams, the bike came to Jackson Hole, too. One taxi ride later I was putting it back together again in The Antler Motel room, to use it to find a job, a room to rent, and routes to climb.
That summer, most of my climbing trips in the Tetons began and ended with a bike ride. My first ascent of the Grand Teton was a solo of the Owen-Spalding route, which is one of the less-difficult routes. (Uniquely, all routes on the Grand are technical, requiring exposed, fifth-class climbing and often at least one rappel on descent.) In those days you had to sign out for a climb and then back in so the rangers would know you had safely returned. There was a short card you filled out to describe your car and license plate number.
The rangers took notice of a midwestern girl who stalled shyly with that card in hand, and then wrote: “Black mountain bike. Will leave locked to Lupine Meadows Trailhead sign.”
Two wheels and a steel frame broke the ice for me in Jackson Hole. Friends were made, advice was more freely given, and keen climbing partners introduced themselves.
Freedom and intention…
In recent days this machine is returned to me with a longer wheel base, saddle bags and a long seat on the back to fit even more children than I possess. This ride is pimped out with a set of red Down-Low Glow lights for full street effect, along with the ever-practical head and tail lights. This amazing bike turns heads everywhere we go. The guys in the local bike shop are completely smitten (with my bike), and the other parents stop us at soccer practice to ask about it.
For me, the best thing is getting to ride it to and from school with my sons each day. The intimacy was unexpected and is absolutely the thing I love best. The singing of songs, the tales of the day, the laughter, even – dare I say? – the horseplay.
The bike path into town from our house allows for four bridges and two tunnels. The boys make note, count them, sing. Riding next to Flat Creek Alex spots a duck with her ducklings in tow on the water. So excited to make this discovery, he and his younger brother Lucas are thoroughly engaged and can’t stop talking about what else they see. The birds are singing, water burbling.
I feel deeply pleased.
This morning, maybe they slipped some contraband sugar cereal when I wasn’t looking, though I will allow that six miles each way takes some patience when you’re not the one pushing the pedals. Some goofing around ensues, followed then by too much goofing around. I feel the bike lurch side-to-side with some corresponding giggles and helmets bonking together, then some whining.
And then it repeats again…
About the third time this happens I let my inner Marine voice (all mothers have one) let them know it’s ENOUGH! This is just as we come around a blind curve in the path next to the creek. I see a man out for a quiet morning walk. I’ve just scared the living daylights out of him: His eyes are huge and his face is whiter than it might usually be. At least he didn’t collapse right there, although it looked like he could go either way on that.
“So sorry, Sir…” I say as we wheel past.
After that, I figured out I could swat them and steer at the same time.
Here’s to freedom and intention, down coats, dear friends, and understanding strangers.
Life is big.
Mattie Sheafor lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with her sons Alex and Lucas. Mattie has guided for Exum Mountain Guides, Chicks With Picks, and Chicks Rock. She was also the founder of Women That Rock, and an ongoing Mountain Athlete. For twenty years, Mattie was a buyer and manager at Teton Mountaineering. She is currently riding her bike down new pathways with freedom, and intention.